Inventory Reservation; Service Differentiation; Fill Rate-Based Performance Measures;
In many inventory settings companies wish to provide customer-differentiated service levels. These may, for example, be motivated by differences in the perceived customer lifetime value or by specific contractual agreements.One approach to provide differentiated service levels is to reserve some portion of the available inventory exclusively for specific customer classes. Existing approaches to inventory reservation are typically based on the assumption that a company can assign a customer specific revenue or penalty cost to any order or unit of demand filled or unfulfilled. In practice, however, it is usually extremely difficult to accurately estimate (especially long term) monetary implications of meeting or not meeting customer demand and corresponding service level requirements.The research presented in this paper addresses the problem of setting appropriate inventory reservations for different customer classes based on fill rate-based performance measures. The authors model a single period inventory reservation problem with two customer classes and nesting. The authors develop exact expressions for two conflicting performance measures: (1) the expected fill rate of high priority customers and (2) the expected loss in the system fill rate induced by inventory reservation. With these expressions a decision maker can analyze the tradeoff between the loss in overall system performance and the higher expected fill rates for prioritized customers.The authors provide analytical insights into the effects of nesting and the impact of relevant problem parameters on these two performance measures. The analytical insights are illustrated and highlighted through a set of numerical examples. Although the authors limit their analysis to a single period inventory reservation problem, they expect that their results can be utilized in a wide range of problem settings in which a decision maker has to ration a perishable resource among different classes of customers.